The words could and would are modal auxiliary verbs, wherein both are the past tense form of the verbs can and will respectively. We make use of the word ‘could‘ to express ability or past possibility, whereas ‘would‘ can be used to show willingness or when we imagine a situation.
In the case of polite expressions, i.e. while making offers, requests, invitation, suggestion or permission, we often get confused, which one to use. So, let’s have a look at the examples given below to understand these two in detail:
- Rahul said ‘he could sing bhajans when he was a kid, but now he would play them on mobile.”
- Would you please be quiet, so that I could sleep for an hour?
In the first sentence, could denotes ability, while in the second one it indicates the possibility. On the other hand, would talk about the future, but the outlook is past, in the first case. In the second situation, would is used to make a request.
Content: Could Vs Would
|Basis for Comparison||Could||Would|
|Meaning||Could is mainly used to discuss possible actions or happenings, in the present or in future.||Would is used in sentences when we talk about situation which we only imagine or of things that happen frequently in the past.|
|Situation||Possible situation||Imaginary situation|
|Usage||It is used in making suggestion, request or seeking permission.||It is used in making request offer and seeking permission.|
|Examples||I could have gone to the parlour.||I would like to go America.|
|She could walk 50 miles in a day, when she was young.||Would you mind if I take your novel?|
|May be she could meet Piya when she go to Amsterdam.||I would meet you, but I was little busy.|
Definition of Could
‘Could’ is used to express past possibility, i.e. something that is possible in the past situation. It can also be used in giving suggestions to someone or making polite requests. Now let’s take a look at its usage:
- To indicate something which you are able or permitted to do:
- In my childhood, I could play basketball.
- You said we could go for lunch when I complete the assignment.
- To make requests, i.e. asking someone to do something:
- Could you stay there for an hour, I am just on the way?
- Could you tell me the exact address, please?
- Could you please close the door?
- To ask for permission:
- Could I have the bowl, please?
- Could I take your notebook?
- To show the possibility:
- You could have joined us.
- To give a suggestion:
- We could go by train instead of the bus.
Definition of Would
The word ‘would’ is used to talk about a future time, from past viewpoint. It refers to something, which is just an imagination, i.e. a situation which is not real or unlikely to happen. It also indicates the willingness or inclination towards something. Let us now discuss its usage:
- To state things that may happen in future, from past standpoint:
- Prateeksha said she would go for a meeting on Monday.
- I was a bit excited to know what would be the result of the game show.
- For making requests, i.e. asking someone to do something:
- Would you please give me some time to think over it?
- To express intention, from past standpoint:
- You said you would always help me.
- She promised, she would not let me go.
- To ask for permission:
- Would you mind if I go and meet my friends tonight?
- Would it be Okay, if I am out of town for three days?
- To make an offer or invitation:
- Would you like to come over our place tonight?
- I would like to have oranges.
- To represent the possibility:
- She would not like to go to the party.
- I think Raman would come this week.
- In conditional sentences:
- What would you do, if you become a celebrity overnight?
Key Differences Between Could and Would
The difference between could and would are presented in the points given below:
- Could is the past tense form of the verb ‘can’ which indicates a past ability of someone or possibility of an action or happening. On the other hand, would is the past of ‘will’ which indicates the intent or willingness of a person, in future, but from past situation. It is also used when we are talking about an imaginary situation.
- Could is used when the situation is possible in the past. On the other hand, would is used when the situation is unreal or unlikely to happen.
- When it comes to polite expressions like requests, permission, we can use both could and would. However, when we are making a suggestion, we explicitly make use of the word could, and if we are making an offer or invitation we use would.
- I could go to the party.
- She is so upset that she could travel for a week.
- Right now the circumstances are favourable, but it could be out of our control.
- It would be great to travel the world, but I have no money.
- I would call the Police if I had my cell phone.
- When she was not in a mood to talk, she would go to the lake, to be alone.
How to remember the difference
When it comes to requests, we can use both could and would, but could is more formal and polite than would. While making polite requests, could is used with suggestions, as it indicates a possibility. On the contrary, would is used with offers or invites, because it is more usual.